10th July 2010
We attempted to leave early this morning, to be able to visit three producers. The first we visited is called Bagdha hemp knitting enterprise, another Prokritee project. We drove for about ten minutes and then got on cycle rickshaws where we bumped along for about half an hour through what can only be described as tropical rainforest! It was green and wet and there were animals running around and small children and smiles everywhere. When we finally reached Bagdha, there were even more smiles to be met.
Bagdha employs over 200 producers all of which are women. They knit hemp and jute products for export all over the world including The Body Shop. They do most of the processing at Bagdha including combing and spinning.
I was lucky to meet a lovely young woman, Jhumur Akter who is 18 and has been working here for the last 2 years. Previously she had worked in a garment factory in Dhaka for six months, she hated it. She was paid 1400 taka per month and it was a struggle for her to survive. She had gone to Dhaka, partly because she couldn’t find a job close to her village, but also because Dhaka seemed glamorous to her. She was very disappointed and felt very alone. Now she is earning 3000 taka per month and is still living at home with her mother, so she is able to save some of her wages. She Is also able to receive all the benefits of Prokritee including sick pay and festival benefit of 20%, there is also a saving policy which the artisans can borrow from at a rate of only 1%.
From Bagdha we also visited Keya Palm Handicrafts and Biborton Handmade Paper, which again are both part of Prokritee. At Biborton they make many different kind of handmade papers including water hyacinth (which is a terrible water way weed) and jute. We saw the entire process of paper making: chopping, boiling, beating, sieving, compressing, drying (not sure of the technical terms).
It starting raining again at Keya, which was a welcome relief from the relentless heat.